John Masino – In For The Night
If one good thing is happening in this year of craziness for the music biz, it is that musicians and songwriters are producing music, often times organically and/or on their own. John Masino is well known and respected throughout the Midwest and beyond for his prowess on electric guitar, electric live performances, songwriting chops, and vocal work. The Madison, Wisconsin native has taken to his home studio to produce his latest gift to the music world, “In For The Night.” Performing all the instruments and vocal work on the CD, John showcases the many facets of his musical capabilities, particularly his songwriting talents. With both instrumental and vocal songs, there is a plethora of subtle genre influences here, weaved masterfully together into a signature sound that is both ear-catching and intriguing. John’s always-stunning guitar work invokes names like “Hendrix” and “Satriani,” while retaining a personality that is distinctly his own. His performances with other instruments goes beyond just background work with solid chops adding extra flavor to the songs. Some of the standout tracks include the ethereal yet hooky “Don’t Wake Me,” the mesmerizing prog-tinted instrumental “Space Walk,” the radio ready pop rock powerhouse “Love Lights”, and poignant ballad “It’s Just A Matter of Time.” John’s lyrics are intelligent without being pretentious, enticing the listener to experience the story or ideal he is portraying. This music is highly enjoyable to anyone, and for those still having it rough right now, John Masino has created an excellent repast that will cut through the darkness and brighten your day. – MW
Dominic Gaudious – AcousticElectric
Dominic Gaudious is undeniably an acoustic instrumental guitar maestro. He has released numerous albums over the years showcasing his prowess on the six and twelve strings, along with his other musical weapon of choice: the didgeridoo. Starting mostly in the new age realm, Dominic has never been afraid of exploring different directions of his songwriting soul, often pushing the envelope in the process. His latest release “AcousticElectric” is just that; a blend of both acoustic and electric stylings mostly in full-band sound configurations. An immediate astonishing factor is that Dominic handles all the instruments on this album, graduating to an ethereal multi-instrumentalist plane. The lively groove of “Downtown Springs” launches the CD with delectable fervor. Songs like “Mouse House” and “Inside The Trance” pulses with an electronica feel – the latter sizzling with wicked but tempered electric guitar licks. After the whimsical ditty “The Happy Hobbitt,” you are treated to the frenetic, world-music kissed title track, the country-tinged rocker “Moonshine,” and “Satriani,” a wonderful tribute to one of Dominic’s influences. The final two songs actually feature some subtle vocal work by David Cagle with “1000 Years Alone” being a stunning prog-rock fueled composition. This is some of Dominic’s most innovative music releases yet, proving that even after being on the scene for a long time, he still has a massive and deep talent reservoir to draw from. His songwriting inventiveness seems limitless as he demonstrates multiple times on this phenomenal effort. – MW http://www.dominicgaudious.com
Carmine Appice – Guitar Zeus
Legendary rock drummer Carmine Appice has reissued his Guitar Zeus project, and album recorded over ten years ago that if you did not know about then, you really need to check it out now. Created with the help of co-writing cohorts Kelly Keeling (vocals, rhythm guitars, keys) and Tony Franklin (bass), Guitar Zeus brought in some of the world’s greatest guitarists to rip loose some seriously powerful rock music. Just to peak your interest a bit more he kicks off the CD with an unreleased track, “ Mothers Space,” an intense burner featuring the shredding of Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal. From there, Carmine chooses a delectable feast of eleven tracks from the original recording. “Gonna Rain” has a subtle funk groove with powerful licks from Bon Jovi axeman Richie Sambora. The mix of radio hooks and grunge edginess are fueled by the the undeniable snarl of Queen’s Brian May in “Nobody New.” “Where You Belong” takes blues to a sonic level beyond 11 on the dial, with maniacally twisted licks by Slash, and some of Keeling’s most intense vocal work on the disc. “Code 19” explodes in the high megaton range with fiery solos and fat cords by Zakk Wylde, and also is one of the many great examples of why Tony Franklin is called the the “Fretless Monster.” The who’s who list of guitarists on the rest of the tracks is impressive; Steve Morse, Neal Schon, Yngwie Mamlsteen, the Nuge, Vivian Campbell, Mick Mars, John Norum, with further guest slots by Dug Pinnick and Edgar Winter. Yeah, there are tons of stars here, including of course the guy behind the double bass drum kit thrashing the thundering beats and intense fills he has always been famous for. But the star power definitely matches the power of the music. There are copious amounts of talent and passion that went into every second of this work. If you did not get a chance to check out Guitar Zeus when it was first released, there is absolutely no reason to miss it now if you love rock guitar playing, singing, bass work, and drumming at its absolute best. Also available as a digital release with even more of the original GZ songs. -MW
Even Christian/Praise music is not immune to having too many artists/songs sound the same. Tulsa’s Antry uses both his faith and musical talents to create something a bit more intriguing musically while still carrying his heartfelt messages. Melding various stylings of blues, country and pop, the music ranges from lush and charismatic to potent and gripping. In any case, this is a very powerful way to spread The Word and the uniqueness and musical talent involved with its creation only enhances the chance of it making a difference in people’s lives.
Country artist Ben Bostick loves his roots and he scorches them like a prairie wildfire. From old school honky tonk to Memphis blues-fueled rockers, Ben tears up any preconceived notions about roots country since he is unafraid to kick in some unconventional stylings that lend a subtle punk feeling while keeping strong hooks intact. The vocal work is a robust cross between Jerry Lee Lewis and Waylon Jennings prone to some interesting phrasing calisthenics, further augmenting the often darkly humorous lyrics. The CD is loaded with excellent musicianship fueled by brash power. Ben doesn’t just turn Nashville on its ear with his music, but he boots it down the road with a steel toe and screams “make room for me!” And they had better because this is seriously fresh music.
To set yourself apart playing blues these days, no need to be strong in your roots but have a bit of something extra. Macon (by way of western Pennsylvania guitarist/vocalist) Tim Woods has that something extra, and it is this undeniable raw feel that ratchets up the intensity of his music. Even the ballads feel potent and some of the rockers are over the top with blistering guitar work and bone-breaking rhythms. Balancing this is his surprisingly melodic voice which still has just the right touch of grit. You can almost smell the tubes in the amps overheating on this one and feel the studio walls shake.
Laura Benitez and The Heartache – With All Its Thorns
While many guys in country are going back to their roots, some of the gals are as well. The third release by Laura Benitez and her band The Heartache exemplifies this as she channels influences of some of the great ladies of country into her own sound. Her voice is undeniably catchy, with a sweetly subtly operatic croon that drives home the from-the-heart lyrics she writes. Musically you are transported back several decades, either clapping along at some smoky Texas honky-tonk, or tapping your toes and smiling in a chair at the Ryman. Both retro and refreshing, this is someone to watch out for.
Long time member of the band The Dysfunctionells, Rich Krueger has released another excellent solo CD featuring his sharp lyrical wit melded with varied musical sensibilities. With a subtly powerful vote that feels a cross between Van Morrison and Cat Stevens, Rich takes you on a story telling journey that feels just like that…like he is sitting at some campfire sharing a half pint with you and regaling you with life stories and perspectives. Enhancing the stories further with unique music backdrops reaching many roots of folk, rock, country and blues, this is one tasty stew for even the most finicky of songwriting aficionados.
In his 1997 song “Christmas in Washington,” troubadour Steve Earle implored “Comeback Woody Guthrie.” Gerry Spehar may have produced that comeback in spirit with his latest release. The Colorado singer/songwriter pulls no punches with his current political statements on this CD, leaning a bit more on the country side of folk than Woody but still infusing a bare–bone hominess that catches the ear and exemplifies the words. The sardonically humorous “Thank You Donald” kicks off the festivities with a bluegrass lilt. The moody, somber folk of “A Soldier’s Spiritual” is a soul-stirring plea about veteran’s difficulties. “Carnival” is like a twisted tent revival preaching a unique perspective on the legacy of LBJ. Gerry tackles multiple timely issues including racism, war, and immigration with music ranging from bizarrely delectable to musically potent. There are many talented players involved with this CD, but Gerry’s voice showcasing a wonderful diversity in both tonal qualities and emotive output is the real star here. He definitely has a lot to say and whether you believe or agree with him or not, the way he conveys his opinions and messages will no doubt get you to at least listen, and maybe think a bit as well. – MW
Bassist/vocalist extraordinaire John Payne and keyboard maestro Erik Norlander have once again joined forces, and the result is mesmerizing. A few years removed from the Asia featuring John Payne era, John and Erik have unleashed both their musical and songwriting talents creating a CD that wonderfully melds the intricacies of prog with the pop sensibilities that Asia was known for during the Payne era. This is obvious straight out of the gate as the rollicking “Brothers In Arms” appears both radio ready with enough musical prowess to please the most ardent prog rock fans. While vestiges of Asia are obvious, the envelope is stretched further – very evident in the driving power of “ A Sorrows’s Crown” and the ear-opening opus “Give Another Reason.” Songs like “Time Waits For No One” and “Seasons Will Change” are strong with their comforting hooks; the musicianship being tempered a bit, but still amazing in a subtle way. It does feel even more like a reunion when you see the guest musicians include guitarists who were members of the John-Payne-era Asia (Jeff Kollman, Moni Scaria, Bruce Bouillet, and Guthrie Govan) along with Asia featuring John Payne drummer Jay Schellen. This is mostly John’s and Erik’s work, combining influences of their past collaborations with other facets of their songwriting souls to create some brilliant music. – MW
Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps – Here In Babylon
L.A.’s veteran songstress Teresa James has strong roots growing into several branches of blues. The result is a sultry, sometimes bawdy but undoubtably catchy group of songs that smacks of barrel houses where you have to squint through the smoke to glimpse the band. Her delectable twinkling of the 88 keys is backed by a robust crew of talented players, kicking life into songs whether mellow or rocking. Teresa’s powerful voice from the Bonnie Raitt school rips loose the songs in potently soulful fashion. Some highly enjoyable tunes here.
The lead track of Pittsburgh singer/songwriter/guitarist Tim Wood’s second CD is called “Can You Feel It?” and, believe me, you can. You can feel old wooden floors shaking, tube amps vibrating, bandaids hastily wrapped around bleeding fingers. Yeah ,you can call it blues, you can call it rock, but Tim puts a unique enough spin on the songs that you can’t really pigeon hole it. His voice is pleasantly haunted by the ghost of Jim Morrison, his guitar work is often stunning, and the music gives the impression of a headlong free for all that works just right. A great example of someone who lets it all loose when he writes and plays music.
The outlaw country revival drives on and Idaho singer-songwriter Andrew Sheppard is one of the newer voices taking the wheel. His sophomore effort is brimming with thought-provoking lyrics along with musical landscapes featuring vistas of old school country, blues and alt edginess, highlighted by Andrew’s Willie-meets-Dylan vocal prowess. From the traditional folk feeling “Take A Walk With Me” to the gritty blues-tinged roots of “Lies As Cheap As Whiskey”, and the rollicking groove of “Here At The Bottom”, Andrew proves highly adept at creating tuneful mosaics that burrow deep into your soul with the honesty of the rods while delighting your musical appreciation receptors with the vibrancy of the song structures. This is another one of the many breaths of fresh air into today’s country scene – an ear opening effort that could lead to bigger things for this talented artist and storyteller. – MW
There are artists in other countries that understand American blues. Australia’s Kings & Associates not only understand it; they live, breathe, and play it very well. They take some unique twists and turns into R&B and very rootsy retro feelings, and have both a male and female vocalist who seethe pure emotion whether crooning the ballads or letting loose with the more rocking tracks. We know folks down under can rock. They can really rock the blues as well if this band is any indication.